Regal Blue

The Juan Pierre post

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 16, 2009

JP:  “So that’s it then?  After three years of service?  So long and good luck?”

Dodgers:  “I don’t recall saying good luck.”

I believe that’s my first Simpsons reference here at the Regal Blue.  Can’t believe it took me so long.

Most of baseball world is talking about the big crazy trade of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Drabek, some other people…I think Billy Beane got into the action…well you know what I mean.  But there’s no bigger trade in Dodgerville than the one that went down yesterday morning.

So long and thanks for all the outs

The man, and half of his remaining salary, are heading to the south side of Chicago.  Officially, the Dodgers are also getting two “players to be named later.”  Looks like Memories of Kevin Malone has the specific players and some info, so check that out.

When Juan Pierre was signed, I thought the same thing all of you thought:  “Wow, that’s a pretty lousy move there, Ned.  We ask for a power bat and you give us a guy with a career ISO of .075.  Sweet.  Oh and you’re paying him what now?”  Juan then proceeded to do what he’d always done and played a mediocre-poor defensive center field and stole some bases.  His OBP dropped from an acceptable-ish .350 for his career to .331 his first year.  Yet he kept batting lead off because you need that there speed at the top of the order, said Grady Little.

He was a scapegoat from the moment he arrived in LA.  Everyone hated that contract.  Any time we couldn’t sign someone, we wondered if it was at least in part because of Juan.  The contract was blamed for keeping Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier out of the lineup.  No rational manager could actually play JP over two of our brightest young stars, but there he was every single day in center field.  The temporary hope of Andruw Jones pushed him to the bench for a few days to start out the 2008 season but we all know how that went.

He made outs like crazy because he absolutely refused to draw a walk.  When asked about that, or any other criticism, he typically responded with something like “That’s just my game.  I know some people don’t like, but this is who I am.”  Essentially, he was a classic example of what Saber-friendly fans hate.  The only two skills he had were wildly overvalued:  batting average and speed reflected in stolen bases.  The stolen bases weren’t even that efficient, with a Dodger-career 134/39 success rate.

It took the mighty Manny Ramirez to finally kick Pierre out of starting job and on to the bench completely.  Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp had essentially become indispensable by that point so that not even Juan’s enormous contract could keep him starting.  And that was the beginning of the end of Pierre’s time in Los Angeles.  He was Manny’s backup.  Sure there was a brief resurgence in 2009 when Manny was suspended, but after that BABIP-fueled flareup in the first couple weeks as the primary left fielder, he was back to his old tricks.  Manny returned and JP was back on the bench where he belonged.

The Dodgers went in to this offseason with the goal of not adding anything to the payroll.  The Great Divorce looming, the front office was not given too much to work with.  Furthermore, Manny has another year in left field and Xavier Paul had a real promising, albeit short, season as the fourth outfielder.  There was just no excuse for keeping Juan Pierre if there was any possible alternative.  For some reason the White Sox thought we was valuable and offered to take half of his contract.  Sold.

***
I never really disliked Juan Pierre all that much.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  I completely agreed with the rest of you that he was overvalued, a liability in the leadoff position, and a rather poor fielder.  But he didn’t draw my ire the way he did for some.  To be honest, I enjoyed watching him bat.  It was kinda fun that he never struck out.  And stolen bases are entertaining.  As much as the statistics belie this, it appeared as though he genuinely distracted pitchers when he got on base and opened up some opportunities when he did manage a leadoff hit.

Of course none of that is true.  Baserunners seldom have an effect on pitchers.  Rather, it’s a prevalent myth and so we remember the few times it happens instead of all the times it doesn’t.  Strikeouts really don’t matter, especially for a leadoff hitter.  Stolen bases do little for a player’s productive value.

At the same time, I never bought in to that whole Plaschkean theory that Juan’s value laid in his hustle, his work-ethic.  You know who works hard every day?  Virtually every other baseball player.  Even Manny, with the unfortunate reputation of being kinda lazy, works out like crazy.  I remember seeing Juan Pierre in Spring Training at Vero Beach and it really looked like he was working hard.  He was the first one to take laps on the field before a game.  He took laps after the game.  But you know what?  Big deal.  His work ethic may have been a little more visible, but while he was running out on the field, every other guy on the team was with a trainer, taking BP in the cage or lifting weights.

The final tally on Juan’s Dodger career is an OPS+ of 84 in 426 games and a line of .294/.339/.357.  That’s 3.6 WAR over three seasons.  It cost 25.5 million dollars, plus the addition ten mil we’re paying for two more years.  And that’s really the bottom line.

***

Reaction has been as expected.  Jon Weisman sees it as all good for the Dodgers.  MSTI couldn’t be happier.  True Blue LA gives a nice, respectful farewell.  Matt Klassen at Fangraphs can’t figure out why Kenny Williams would do this.  Me either but that’s Williams for you, the man who would take Alex Rios.

***

In conclusion, I hope Juan Pierre has better days in Chicago.  He didn’t exactly deserve to be a pariah and I have to believe Chicago will offer a fresh start as far as opinion goes.  All the best, JP.

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